Since January, when Cordoba Minerals (TSXV: CDB; US-OTC: CDBMF) completed the first resource estimate on its Alacran deposit in Colombia based on 22 drill holes, the company has drilled another 45 holes, and in August, unveiled a 3,000-metre drill program to test high-priority targets to the south, northeast and down dip.
“We’re pretty confident that Alacran is going to get bigger than the 54 million tonnes previously reported,” says president and CEO Mario Stifano, referring to the inferred resource of 53.5 million tonnes grading 0.70% copper and 0.37 gram gold per tonne, or 0.95% copper equivalent.
“We’re well on our way to having a sizeable resource here,” he adds. “We will be able to demonstrate that we have a really economic orebody at Alacran. It’s exciting because the mineralization starts right from surface — so you have no pre-strip — and you’ve got great grades.”
The near-surface copper-gold skarn deposit, 200 km north of Medellin, is part of the company’s San Matias project, which consists of a 200 sq. km land package in the northern part of the Mid-Cauca gold belt within the department of Cordoba.
“Colombia is a frontier for discoveries and the reason is that there really hasn’t been modern exploration,” Stifano tells The Northern Miner in an interview. “Historically, Colombia was one of the oldest gold producers in the world, but in northern Colombia, where we are, there wasn’t any exploration in gold and copper before we came in 2012.”
Cordoba hopes to make up for lost time.
So far the company has defined mineralization at Alacran over 1.3 km of strike and up to 400 metres of lateral width, and is now looking to the south, northeast and down-dip extension on the western edge of the orebody. “We’ve got to see if Alacran continues at depth,” Stifano says. “But it won’t stop there — we haven’t even started to test where we think the source of the porphyry is for Alacran — we’re still trying to understand.
“The Alacaran deposit is complex and doesn’t fit into any known model, which is fantastic in that the largest deposits and structures in the world are complex, and they write their own rules,” he says. “We’ve got the most exciting copper-gold project in Colombia and Latin America.”
In July, Cordoba released results from hole 66, which was drilled south of the current mineral resource shell. The hole assayed 48 metres of 0.70% copper and 0.19 gram gold (0.84% copper equivalent) from surface, including 12 metres of 1.13% copper and 0.26 gram gold (1.32% copper equivalent) from 20 metres. The hole also returned a 34-metre intercept of 0.37% copper and 0.14 gram gold (0.48% copper equivalent) from 60 metres, including 8 metres of 0.73% copper and 0.37 gram gold (1.01% copper equivalent) from 57 metres.
Another hole, 63, cut 30 metres of 0.66% copper and 0.69 gram gold (1.18% copper equivalent) from 78 metres, and 48 metres of 1.70% copper and 0.79 gram gold (2.30% copper equivalent) from 51 metres in drill hole 64.
Results released in May included 184 metres of 0.46% copper and 0.28 gram gold (0.67% copper equivalent) from six metres in hole 41, and 122 metres of 0.55% copper and 0.22 gram gold (0.72% copper equivalent) from 40 metres in hole 40.
There’s more to San Matias than Alacran, however. The project hosts several known areas of porphyry mineralization, including two near-surface copper-gold porphyries called Montiel and Costa Azul.
Alacran is 2 km southwest of Montiel, where drilling has intersected 101 metres of 1% copper and 0.65 gram gold per tonne, and 2 km northwest of Costa Azul, where drilling has cut 87 metres of 0.62% copper and 0.51 gram gold per tonne.
Stifano notes that Cordoba’s footprint in northern Colombia exceeds that of any other company. Cordoba has mining rights covering 200 sq. km, and has another 2,500 sq. km under application, which Stifano says means that when the government is ready to grant that land, it will go to Cordoba.
“When we saw in our part of northern Colombia that we had potentially a district that nobody was even aware of, we locked it up, because we think there are going to be multiple deposits in this district,” Stifano says. “If San Matias proves as prospective as we think it is, we own it all. This is not a district where other juniors have ground. There is no ability for any other mining company to come in and take ground from us. That’s what makes it really exciting from an investor’s perspective.”
Moreover, while artisanal mining has been problematic for some companies (six contractors working for Continental Gold (TSX: CNL; US-OTC: CGOOF) at its Buritica project were killed in an explosion by artisanal miners in July), Cordoba has not had any issues.
“We are quite lucky. We haven’t the same problems that many other companies have with illegal miners,” Stifano says. “The difference is that in our district, essentially there are open-pit-style grades rather than high-grade vein systems, so we don’t have illegal miners coming from all over the country to mine.”
In addition, he says, northern Colombia is less populated than many other areas of the country due to its hot temperatures and fewer towns.
Stifano estimates there are 70 artisanal miners at Alacran while at Montiel there is just one family with 11 members. At Alacran, he adds, some of the miners, who are very poor, have asked the company to buy them out.
“We have done a lot of social work there, like building schools and providing other assistance,” he says. “We trained some families to cultivate bees and produce honey, and we’ve been recognized for our social and environmental work. And a lot of people are currently employed by us.”
Earlier this year, Cordoba acquired the 51% stake in San Matias owned by its joint-venture partner, High Power Exploration (HPX), in exchange for 92.7 million common shares of Cordoba, or a 67% stake. The privately owned exploration company is headed by Robert Friedland.
While some criticized the deal as bad for Cordoba’s small retail shareholders because it transfers much of the exploration and financial risk to Cordoba, Stifano says the deal is a win-win. “It’s always better to own 100% of a project,” he says. “We want to position Cordoba for the future. The joint-venture has been a tremendous success for shareholders and HPX, but we’ve simplified the structure now and rather than have a 49–51% structure, where we had the minority, we now own 100%.
“Having a minority interest is not usually of interest to funds, whereas having a 100% interest is of interest to funds,” he adds. “So the next stage will be to attract significant ownership. Having 100% will allow us to bring in other strategic investors. If we need to sell 5% or 10% to the Chinese, or Japanese, for example, which Friedland has done many times in the past, having 100% of the project is critical. The other structure we had was too difficult.
“We have a pretty powerful board and the members recognized that having 100% ownership will bring much higher, long-term shareholder value to shareholders.”